Chuck D speaks out in support of Obama’s stance on gay marriage, and outlines the greatest problem in hip-hop today
Public Enemy began as a challenge to the American social construct, and while the rap group may not have always endorsed evolving sexual politics, their leader, Chuck D, says he stands by President Obama’s decision to publicly support gay marriage.
Currently on tour in Australia, Chuck tells theGrio, “To me, win or lose, I would like a person who is honest about their opinion, and not just for popularity’s sake. For that reason, I think [President Obama’s] move on gay marriage was inevitable and necessary. It’s not a political move. Eventually, society has to say it right. We can’t deprive someone else of their freedom.”
Now celebrating 25 years as a collective, the rapper addresses the subject with unreserved intensity, despite the fact Public Enemy has previously expressed opposition on the matter. Their track “Meet the G that Killed Me,” for instance, begins with the line, “Man to man, I don’t know if they can, from what I know, the parts don’t fit.” Yet Chuck pleads no remorse for his words. Rather, he says, “There were always homophobic tendencies in the black community, but we were very cool about speaking about what was in the air at that time.”
What he does criticize, however, is the appointment of rap’s current envoy, Jay-Z, an artist who’s been questioned on the subject by everyone from Rolling Stone to CNN.
“I think people look at Jay-Z as being a spokesperson for hip-hop and rap, and I think that he should be. He’s bold,” says Chuck. “My term though is ‘catch the throne.’ When we’re ‘watching the throne,’ who is going to watch the people going under?…Bottom line, I think if Jay-Z should be a spokesperson, he’s gonna have to come to task. His songs have to reflect the wit that he has as a smart human being. He’s a smart dude. His music should be something to hang our hats on.”
From the time of Public Enemy’s inception, Chuck has been more than outspoken about his beliefs on government responsibility, societal neglect and the country’s increasingly disparate wealth divide. Most recently, he spearheaded Operation Skid Row, an occupied street movement in one of the most decrepit enclaves of America’s forgotten lands. The hip-hop icon says his current call to action is for leaders of this nation to speak for the people — that includes musical poets too.
“It’s a confusing period for America and the world because a lot of people don’t have the slightest idea about what is happening,” the rap artist explains. “When it comes down to where America’s going, the question is whether President Obama will continue to fuel the new world order, or if will he be there for the needs of the people.”
Chuck D has always encouraged the world to check authority, to oppose powers that build only to break, and to do so with honest resolve. These days, he’s concentrated his interest not only on corporate exploitation, but artistic dissolution in the community. In fact, rap’s rainmaker does not believe hip-hop has lost its core, he just feels those who talk about it don’t speak the whole truth. The problem, says Chuck, is journalists who are “not equipped to cover everything out there in an organized way.” Consequently, talent gets lost in mediocrity.
Furthermore, the record business trains the media to follow radio, where good artists don’t always find a voice.
“One of the biggest problems is that you have artists out there who get no coverage in the local area…It has been devastating to hip-hop,” Chuck explains. “Artists like Jay-Z or Kanye West are pushed out to be symbols of hip-hop, and the grassroots get corroded. A local artist cannot survive or make a living; they can’t even supplement it. The big fallacy is that rap is bigger than ever when it actually can’t support itself.”
Conversely, Chuck feels the best era for hip hop was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when “nobody got on the radio and you had to figure out how to carve your niche and your identity.” Accordingly, everyone had the same odds and a small investment could produce a large return. Now, the stakes are indeterminable, and, like the polarities of the nation, the gap dividing rap’s foremost and its constrained is significant.
As a legendary figure in the game, Chuck continues to push his mission, what he says is to be a “serviceman to hip hop.” Public Enemy will release two albums this year in honor of their anniversary, My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp in June, and The Evil Empire of Everything in September. The records are not alike, nor are they similar to any of the group’s past works (Chuck points out, “We have never had the same sound twice”). The rapper describes them as a compilation of many heads, production units, and a 21st century tinge.
Onward and adamant, Chuck stands by the resistance movement he began. Asked why his heroes aren’t recognized by the post office, the artist replies, “Basically, some of our heroes are some of the system’s foes…They are the ones who stood up against opposition, to have people actually be equal.”
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